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One of the largest car-free city districts
Merwede in Utrecht
Merwede in Utrecht

One of the largest car-free city districts

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Merwede is the first example of Utrecht’s ambition for sustainable and healthy urbanisation in Utrecht. The creation of Merwede will give Utrecht one of the largest inner-city, car-free city districts in the Netherlands, the size of 34 football pitches.

Urban plan for the transformation of Merwede in Utrecht into a mixed use urban district

The urban plan Merwede and the image quality plan Merwede have been adopted by the city council on October 7, 2021

Merwede, Utrecht

Ownerscollective Merwede; Gemeente Utrecht (municipality), Greystar, AM, Synchroon, Lingotto, Janssen de Jong, BPD Ontwikkeling, G&S Vastgoed, Round Hill Capital, 3T Vastgoed and Boelens de Gruyter

Municipality of Utrecht, Stadkwadraat, LOLA landscape architects (from 2022) OKRA Landschapsarchitecten (until 2021) Mark Rabbie stedenbouwkundige concepten, Goudappel Coffeng, RebelGroup, Merosch, Stratego Advies en Unchain the Tigers

2016 – current

Marco Broekman, Bart Claassen, Jordy Stamps, Yun-shih Chen,  Frank de Boer, Floris van der Zee, Yara Alnashawati, Martha Seitanidou, Timothy Simons, Katrin Schneider, Chiara Stucchi, Chloé Charreton, Juli Lánczky, Max Tuinman, Tessa Schouten, Paul van Eeden, Imane Boutanzit, Daan Helmerhorst, Zuzanna Bręk and Alexandra Kern.

Sustainable and healthy urbanisation in Utrecht
Merwede is the first example of Utrecht’s ambition for sustainable and healthy urbanisation in Utrecht. The creation of Merwede will give Utrecht one of the largest inner-city, car-free city districts in the Netherlands, the size of 34 football pitches. This will provide the city with thousands of affordable homes and numerous facilities, such as a market hall and mobility hubs for shared transport. There will also be an abundance of greenery, partly due to the strict parking standards. ​Merwede’s mission can be summarised in five themes:

  1. Mobile Merwede: Allowing residents of Merwede to move freely without their own car.
  2. Healthy and sustainable: Designing Merwede to contribute to a healthy planet with healthy people.
  3. Lively city district: Offering Merwede the liveliness and amenities of the city.
  4. Green domain: Creating a Merwede that combines highly urban, green and relaxation at the same time.
  5. Coulisse city: Merwede is a highly urbanised neighbourhood with respect for the human scale.
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Urban plan
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Five themes
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Urban principles
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Coulisse city

A new urban district​
A special feature of the Merwede project is that a 24-hectare industrial site is being transformed into a new urban district. This is possible because the 10 owners involved, including the municipality, have made the plan together. Soon, 12,000 people will be able to live in Merwede. The district will be particularly popular with the elderly because of the residential care combinations and with first-time buyers because of the affordability of the homes. Families, too, will be well served by the many amenities, including three schools.

The buildings in Merwede will differ in size, height and architecture. Structures start relatively low on the canal side and increase in height towards Europalaan. Merwede contains over 200 buildings in total. This creates a diverse roofscape and unique cityscape: a Coulisse City.

Merwede includes a diversity of environments from quiet residential areas to busier meeting places. There will be lively places with hospitality facilities, a sports hall, primary schools, a secondary school and a cultural centre. One example is the bicycle depot, which will be transformed into a market hall with restaurants and cafés, creative businesses and food cultivation. In other parts of the district, residents can find peace and quiet, such as in green squares and parks.

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The proposed mixed use urban district

Green and sustainable
The choice for a car-free district contributes to the place, space and greenery in Merwede. Along the canal there will be a new Merwede Park. Different routes for slow traffic connect Merwede to the surrounding neighbourhoods and the city.

Merwede will be almost energy-neutral. It will have the largest underground thermal storage facility in the Netherlands to heat or cool the district, using water from the Merwede Canal. All roofs will be provided with greenery and/or solar panels. Leave no roof unused, is the motto. These choices for sustainability and green contribute to what Utrecht wants to be: a healthy, liveable city for everyone.

Intensive cooperation
The Urban Plan and image quality plan for Merwede is the result of intensive cooperation between eleven landowners, including the municipality of Utrecht. BURA (formerly known as marco.broekman) has been involved in the planning process since 2016 as leader of the design-team and has been collaborating with different advisors. In 2021 the owners signed the agreement with the municipality. In doing so, they have entered into a long cooperation with each other and the. neighbourhood.

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Sustainable and healthy neighbourhood
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Urban strategy
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Bird eye view of Merwede
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Impression of a neighbourhood square
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Impression of the green central spine
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Impression of the square with the Vechtclub and the Fietsdepot

See also